Under the nominal leadership of IFP/New York executive directorMichelle Byrd, more than 30 prominent members of the independent community havesigned a joint statement condemning this week's ban on awards season previewtapes by the MPAA.

Robert Altman, John Waters, Killer Films' Christine Vachon and PamKoffler, GreeneStreet's John Penotti and Fisher Stevens, This Is That's TedHope and Anne Carey and IFC Entertainment's Jonathan Sehring are among thesignatories who have decried the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA)"ill-advised and hasty" decision.

The five-point statement outlines the main areas of contention yetalso expresses a shared concern over the effects of piracy - the chiefmotivating force behind the ban - and suggests alternative ways of policing theindustry.

"This last minute policy change will seriously diminish thediversity and quality of independent films immediately, and the mainstream filmindustry in the long run," the statement reads. "Oscar consideration is aprimary motivating factor behind the funding of riskier films, those of moreserious content, films with ambitious narrative aspirations. Lacking Oscarpotential these films will not be made.

"The least likely people to pirate - Academy Members and otherinsiders - will suffer the most, particularly since most piracy comes fromoutside the US and is the result of in-theatre taping.

"Specialised divisions and the actors and directors whose careersare often made by their releases become even more vulnerable than they alreadyare in today's tight market. Yet again, the public is the ultimate loserbecause specialised films are the more artistically daring and challengingfare."

The statement suggested the following anti-piracy methods:

"Require all screeners (both DVD and VHS) to be watermarked andindividually numbered so they can be traced and the perpetrators prosecuted.

"Crack down on the real sources of piracy, whether they be labsand duplication houses where films are processed, theatres where theoverwhelming majority of illegal taping for duplication occurs and/or privateindividuals who chose to disregard intellectual copyright laws."

MPAA president Jack Valenti announced the ban on Sept 30, backedby the seven US majors and DreamWorks and New Line. It binds every MPAA member,which includes the studios' specialty divisions who are the main outlets forthe kind of platform releases that typically prosper at awards ceremonies.

Other industry luminaries who signed the statement included Oscarwinners Hilary Swank and Bill Condon, actors Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny,Tracey Ullman and Selma Blair and independent stalwarts Ed Pressman, JohnSchmidt, Ira Deutchman, Sarah Green and John Manulis.